A Quick Word

"In order to go on living one must try to escape the death involved in perfectionism." -Hannah Arendt (1906-1975)

21 December 2009

Breaktime activities.

Before break, I came to a crucial realization: I have not been happy this year (2009.) It's been a hard year, I've had all this trouble, blah-blah-blah-it's-what-I-say-in-every-self-reflective-blog-post-ever...


All that should now come to a stop. Why? Because I noticed a correlation (one that speaks also of causation) between the suckiness of this year and my mindset I've adopted. Late in the fall of '08, I began a personal campaign to make school my priority-- I was going to be more studious, more academic, and more dedicated. However, I took this mantra to an unhealthy extreme. Not only did I start focusing more on school, but I forsook pretty much every pleasurable activity in life in its pursuit. I stopped playing music--which I have done since the age of three-- I stopped painting and drawing in pen and ink-- which I have also done all my life-- and I halted progress on nearly all of my creative writing projects.

Now, please notice something here: I replaced all of these things, which, apart from just adding FUN to my life also contributed heavily to my identity, with school. What. The. Heck.

How can I be surprised that this year has gone so badly?! I removed everything that I enjoyed in order to pursue something that, yes, I did want to pursue, but that I should not have pursued so ardently. And ironically enough, once I removed all of the aforementioned things from my life, my academic progress suffered.

What have I learned from all of this? I have learned that I need to lighten up a bit. I need to do those things that I enjoy, not that I deem 'most prudent'-- whatever that means. So, to commemorate this revelation that is certain to become my New Years Resolution, I spent the past two nights re-acquainting myself with all of my gorgeous guitars, jamming out to U2, John Mayer, and Trans-Siberian Orchestra in my basement.

Merry Christmas!

17 December 2009

There's nothing common about that.

I like the fact that certain songs make even the most banal parts of life seem vibrant, epic, and more alive. (Especially when they make things epic--I tend to appreciate a song that can turn brushing my teeth into a sweeping space opera or driving to Walmart into a high-stakes car chase from The Italian Job.)

As is the case now, when I'm sitting here trying to finish a take-home exam that, if I can complete before going to bed, will mean that I can go home tomorrow afternoon rather than Friday.

Thus is my life.

14 December 2009

Scare tactics.

Why has there been an escalation in crime around campus this past week? It seems like everyday I get a new "CRIME ALERT" email in my campus mailbox, and every new email contains a multiple of the number of crimes it previously featured. It's a bit discomforting, really. (Especially since the crimes aren't petty theft-- they include beatings, unconscious victims, and theft.) Furthermore, they seem to occur at times of day usually considered fairly "safe" (7:15 PM, anyone?). Two people have been attacked, knocked to the ground, and kicked multiple times in the face and torso in between the hours of 7:00PM and 8:00 PM. Scary.

I wish the police would be a bit more proactive than simply "increasing their patrols in the area." Perhaps, "conducting investigations," whether they are actually conducting them or not, would be a better thing to include in the CRIME ALERT emails, as this sounds more man-of-action than does cruising around in one's patrol car. And with the terrifically vivid suspect descriptions we have been given-- two black college-age males, three college-age males in sweatshirts, etc.-- I'm sure that increased patrols are all we need to catch them. I almost expect the next email to say: "Armed robbery at the 300 block of so-and-so street. The suspects were all reported to have faces." Thanks, guys.

But in all seriousness, these muggings, aggravated assaults, and armed robberies are awful. I certainly hope that those who perpetrate these crimes are caught soon. Final exams, it seems, need to end not simply for our sanity, but our safety as well. I would like to come back to a safe campus.

12 December 2009

Brain atrophy.

Why is it that one's mind always seems to go on vacation prematurely? I still have a week of final exams-- all of vital importance to maintaining my GPA. Yet do I feel a sense of stress? Urgency? Unrest? No.

I hope this is just my body's way of saying "Don't worry about it, I know everything without having to study or do all of the reading. You're prepared."

I hope.

09 December 2009

The nearness of Christmas break.

Had my last classes of the semester today. Now, I must simply make it through final exams and I'll be home-free. What has been a trying semester looks to finish on a high note-- I'm hoping I can carry this momentum into next semester.

My motto for the next ten days: "Constant vigilance!" (Thank you, Mad Eye...)

02 December 2009


As much as I love U of I, it really is a dreary place sometimes. For instance, today, while in British Literature lecture, Prof. Wood remarked unflinchingly that our generation could be the last English Majors ever to walk the earth. Really...? Are things that bad? I mean, I understand that the humanities don't offer as lucrative a career as, say, Engineering (a field that dominates our campus), but they still have merit-- if nothing else, people must learn to speak and write English well, do they not? My father has made quite a decent living writing (despite the fact that he has a business degree), and wishes all the time that he could have studied more English while studying for his undergrad at Ole Miss. (The land of Faulkner-- ah... and Welty, sort of.) And if a certain skill is prized in a field (my father's writing for business, for instance), then wouldn't it make sense that there must exist a group of highly educated people to teach these skills? Prof. Wood commented that the English Dept. is doomed to become ("possibly," he said, not "probably") a Dept. of Communication. However, we already have one of those, and it is considerably smaller than our English Dept.-- though I must admit I am considering it for my minor now that Medieval Studies has collapsed-- which would indicate that English still has a greater relevancy than the impression given by some of my professors.

My ramblings aside, Prof. Wood, whom I deeply respect and admire as a professor, raised within me deeper questions than ones debating the practicality or financial advantage/disadvantage of studying the humanities; he caused me to examine why I, as a twenty year old undergraduate, think so highly of the humanities and place such a value on them. Though I, examining the notion of the university and the benefit of liberal education and my objections to the "university as vocational training" model, could fill volumes framing my response to this, I will instead end this long post with my thoughts on the English/Communications scenario posed above.

To me, Communications could never replace English-- as an educational equivalent, at least-- because though both fields share the similar underpinnings of writing and rhetoric, each seeks to fill a subtly different role in society. Communications is all about (no surprise here) raw communication-- the simple conveyance of information simply, succinctly, and directly. It studies how communicating information affects people and their actions, whether that be through public speaking, raising awareness for certain causes, or through emerging technologies. (Facebook, blogs, etc.) Such a field of study certainly has its practical application. Yet English, while still teaching how to argue effectively and write clearly, also seeks to teach something deeper-- what it means to be a human. It does not simply examine why we communicate, but also what we communicate: Why do the words of Keats move us? Why did Keats (or any other poet) feel the need to express what they chose to express? I could go on and on... I love Keats. But Keats is not the important part of this post. What I mean to say is this: I believe that knowing these complexities about the human condition is far more important than knowing simply how to use a form of media to say something to someone else . I may be (as I continue to be proved) archaic, but one may as well be sucking out my soul every time the humanities are spoken of as a dying field-- indeed, my soul is sucked out every time they are mentioned in that way. I hope we (as an enterprising world) can find a way to herald the humanities' relevance for future generations. After all, we don't know everything there is to know about ourselves... and how can we if we leave it all to hard science?

I remain hopeful. There are too many of us who care.